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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

INSIDER POLL: Gwen Graham is stongest Dem for US Sen



She has run and won just one campaign, served in office less than eight months, and may soon be a one-term congresswoman thanks to a court ruling over how lawmakers drew Florida's congressoonal lines. But already Florida's political establishment views Democratic U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham of Tallahassee as her party's strongest candidate for U.S. Senate next year - if not governor in 2018.

That's one conclusion from the latest Tampa Bay Times Florida Insider Poll of nearly 160 of Florida's most plugged in and experienced political hands: More than half said Graham would be the strongest Democratic general election candidate for U.S. Senate between her and U.S. Reps. Alan Grayson and Patrick Murphy. And nearly 70 percent said she should run for senate if her Panhandle district is redrawn to be overwhelmingly Republican, as is widely expected.

"There is no downside for a Cong. Graham U.S. Senate bid," said one Florida Insider registered to neither major party. "Her proven ability to appeal to conservative Panhandle voters, historic family ties to the voter rich Gold Coast and her high and very favorable Graham name ID provides the winning edge over Cong. Murphy, also an
attractive candidate, in the D Senate primary. If she should lose the general, Graham would then be well positioned to be the D front runner for governor in 2018."

"Should Gwen decide to run she would have a distinct name, fundraising and political advantage statewide beyond all candidates," said a Democrat. "She cannot run against Corine Brown and is essentially reduced to hoping for an appointment from Hillary Clinton or loosing all momentum if she chooses to run for Governor in 2018. Ironic that she did so well only to be cut out of the deal."

The Florida Supreme Court called on legislators to redraw the district now represented U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown so that instead of running from Jacksonville to Orlando, it runs Jacksonville to Tallahassee. Many observers expect the new district will leave Graham in an overwhelmingly Republican district that no Democrat could win, although that's not certain.

The 52-year-old daughter of former Sen. and Gov. Bob Graham emerged as one of the brightest Democratic lights in Florida after she defeated Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Southerland last year in a Republican-leaning district during a Republican wave election year. So far she appears to be making no moves toward the Senate and says she is focused on her current job.

Asked whether they expect Graham, Grayson, or Murphy to be the Democratic Senate nominee in 2016, an overwhelming 63 percent predicted Murphy, while 19 percent said Graham and 18 percent Grayson. The strongest general election Democrat? Fifty-three percent said Graham, 43 percent said Murphy and 4 percent said Grayson.

"As impressive as Gwen Graham is, I fear the long term effects of my party rushing to push people into races simply because of our weak bench," a Democrat said. "I think she would be competitive in that (House) seat even if it moved a few points into the red. She'd be better served to put up a good fight and then, win or lose, look towards Bill Nelson's US Senate seat in a few years."

The Florida Insider Poll is an unscientific survey of campaign professionals, fundraisers, lobbyists, academics and the like. Tomorrow we'll look at the Republican Senate primary.

This month's Insiders included 54 Democrats, 91 Republicans and 14 people registered to neither major party. They included:

Andrew Gillum, Ann Herberger, Brian Burgess, Gus Corbella, Towson Fraser, Mark Ferrulo, Eric Eikenberg, Jeff Johnson, Andy Ford, Rich Heffley, Damien Filer, Stephen Shiver, Ken Jones, John Morgan, Paula Dockery, Eric Jotkoff, Fred Piccolo, Sarah Rumpf, Jeff Wright, Kevin Cate, Jim Rimes, Nancy Watkins, Kirk Pepper, David Rancourt, Scott Barnhart, Travis Blanton, Roger Stone, David Griffin, Paul Bradshaw, Nick Hansen, Peter Antonacci, Christian Zieger, Kirsten Borman, Bret Doster, Jackie Lee, Mike Hightower, April Salter, Ron Sachs, Susan MacManus, Jason Unger, Steve Uhlfelder, Fred Cunningham, Erik Kirk, Christian Camara, Derrick McGhee, Dean Cannon, Rick Wilson, Ana Navarro, Screven Watson, Ryan Wiggins, Trey Traviesa, Bernie Campbell, Justin Day, Eric Johnson, Anthony Pedicini, Kathy Mears, Marc Reichelderfer, Mitch Ceasar, Abel Harding, Cory Tilley, Brad Coker, Amber Stoner, Bob Sparks, Jamie Miller, Richard Ramos, Ellen Freidin, Christina Johnson, Adam Goodman, Jack Funari, Greg Truax, Kelly Cohen, Kirk Fordham, Fred Karlinsky, Steve Geller, Roly Marante, Caren Lobo, Jon Mills, Matthew Corrigan, David Johnson, Mel Sembler, Ron Bilbao, Alex Patton, Pablo Diaz, Rodney Barreto, Marion Hammer, Tre Evers, Oscar Anderson, Steven Vancore, Barry Edwards, Nancy McGowan, Ben Pollara, Mike Hanna, Donna Arduin, Scott Arceneaux, Darryl Paulson, Don Hinkle, Joe Perry, Ron Greenstein, Seth McKee, John Dowless, Richard Swann, Doc Dockery, Frank Mirabella, David Bishop, Clarence McKee, Tony Hill, Dan Gelber, John French, Greg Turbeville, Scott Peelen, Jamie Wilson, Jim Davis, Henry Kelley, Alex Sink, Marty Fiorentino, Mike Hamby, John Stemberger, Ryan Tyson, Ashley Walker, Husein Cumber, Brian Hughes, Dave Aronberg, Robert Coker, Jon Ausman, Bill Lee, Jason Roth, Stafford Jones, Mike Fasano, Tom Tillison, Michael Albetta, Lucy Morgan, Gayle Andrews, Slater Bayliss, Javier Manjarres, Alan Clendenin, Tim Baker, Marc Caputo, Nels Kingston, Ron Gunzberger, John Wehrung, Chris Hand, Allan Bense, Susan Glickman, Nikki Lowrey, David Custin, Andrew Weinstein, Susan Smith, Jill Chamberlin, Richard DeNapoli, Kathleen Shanahan, Meredith O'Rourke, Mark Zubaly, Trey Stapleton, Steven Schale, Josh Geise, Paul Mitchell, Aubrey Jewett.

[Last modified: Monday, July 20, 2015 3:45pm]


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